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Debunked: No, four young people are not in a serious condition in CUH after taking non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs

The clinical lead for the HSE told TheJournal.ie that such false stories harm our collective action to fight this virus.

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A WHATSAPP MESSAGE has been shared across the country today claiming that there are ‘four young people with non underlying conditions’ in a serious condition at Cork University Hospital with Covid-19, associated with the use of ibuprofen.

This is not true. 

Dr Colm Henry, the HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer, told TheJournal.ie this evening that the message has “no basis in fact”.  

Dr Henry, who was in the hospital today, said the description does not match any patients. 

“It is complete lies and totally untrue,” he said, before urging people to not share, forward or circulate such false stories.  

“It is distressing to families and harmful,” he continued. 

“False messaging like this greatly harms our collective ability to fight this virus.”

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Dr Henry was in Cork University Hospital today to support frontline staff as they continue to care for patients. 

The Infectious Diseases Society of Ireland also tweeted this evening, asking people to ignore and delete the fake message. 

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Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie 

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The second half of the message deals with another piece of information that is circulating widely right now about the use of ibuprofen. 

France’s health minister Olivier Véran tweeted yesterday: “The taking of anti-inflammatories [ibuprofen, cortisone … ] could be a factor in aggravating the infection. In case of fever, take paracetamol. If you are already taking anti-inflammatory drugs, ask your doctor’s advice.”

This has been twisted on WhatsApp and other social media to tell people to not use ibuprofen at all. 

Dr Henry said this is not the current advice in Ireland. 

For those who have been diagnosed with Covid-19, paracetamol is advised as the first treatment for the fever and pain symptoms associated with the virus, he explained. Ibuprofen is used as the second line of medicine.

“At present, there is no specific treatment for Covid-19, but symptoms such as fever can be treated. The French analysis is not our position but we are always reviewing emerging evidence,” he added. 

Dr Henry told people to continue to follow the advice of a doctor or pharmacist if using ibuprofen or any other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. He also asked people to seek the most accurate and up-to-date medical advice and information from the HSE’s website

As the virus is so new, there is very sparse data available to decision makers. It is understood the HSE has consulted experts who have said there is no convincing evidence at present to confirm the French hypothesis.  

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There is a lot of false news and scaremongering  being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 

STOP, THINK AND CHECK 

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

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